Looking for some free printable playdough mats to teach your child numbers?
It is such an outside-the-box, hands-on way to teach your child these early math skills!
The mats included in this post are so much fun for kids of all ages, easy to use, and a perfect addition to any early math curriculum.
When Should Young Children Start Learning Numbers And Counting?
It is never really too early to start teaching kids about counting and numbers.
I would teach my own children while walking up and down the stairs and holding them, counting with each step.
We would count to 10 while playing hide and seek.
Or we would even practice counting backward while watching the microwave heat up a snack for us.
There are so many other ways you could incorporate counting and numbers in your day-to-day life. You can count out grapes or carrots as you hand them to your child.
Point out numbers on signs, on TV, or in books whenever you see them.
When your kid sees that you’re excited about numbers, they will be too!
I would initially just start with numbers 1-3, then 1-5, and eventually 1-10.
****Everything with these activities should be light and fun. Your child should never feel any pressure to “perform” or remember. They have so much time to master these skills, especially if you start early.
Benefits of Playdough Mats For Math Skills
1. Makes Learning Fun!
What little hands don’t love squishing playdough?
Your kid will light up when you pull these free playdough mats out. They won’t even know that they are learning math!
Which is exactly how math should be at this age – high fun, low pressure, and plenty of games and activities.
2. Hands-On Way To Learn
On that note of fun, math should be very hands-on at this age.
Kids absolutely need manipulatives and other things to make math concrete for them.
These free playdough number mats do just that! Young kids can roll out their “apples” for their tree and make their own counters for the ten frame.
They can see, touch, and pick up what they are counting. This is such a fun way to learn and a better experience than pictures on a worksheet.
3. Builds Number Sense From The Very Beginning
These playdough activities not only teach number formation, number recognition skills, and counting.
They also help children to read a ten frame!
This is such an important skill that will absolutely carry from preschool lessons to first grade.
They will use their knowledge of a ten frame for early addition, subtraction problems, “making ten,” and more.
4. Early Exposure To Number Words
Being able to read number words is an important skill, so I made sure they were included on these printable mats.
In the early years, I would recommend just pointing out the number word and explaining to the child what it is.
They may start to recognize it over time, or you will teach it when they get further along with their reading skills.
Alternatives To Using Playdough
I know not all families are comfortable with using playdough.
Some people have issues with dyes or chemicals. And others may be concerned about the gluten in it.
If that’s you, consider using different colored pom poms, kinetic sand, or making your own playdough!
Here is a great recipe for playdough from Tinker Lab.
I wish I had my favorite playdough recipe for you from my childhood – my amazing mom would make it peanut butter flavored!
But in its place, I do have some outstanding edible playdough recipes from Oxo.
How To Use Your Free Playdough Mats!
First, how do you want to protect your set of free counting play dough mats?
If you have a laminator, that would be a great way to keep them clean. A laminated playdough mat would definitely be the easiest to wipe down, store, and reuse.
Another easy way to keep your printables clean is to opt for a plastic page protector or sheet protector.
They will also keep the playdough residue from getting on your counting mats.
The next thing you want to do is get all your supplies together.
Make sure you have your playdough (or alternative playdough) and maybe a washable erasable marker.
Your student can use it to trace the numbers, number words, and draw on the free printables.
Important fine motor skills are developed when your child has to make playdough numbers and roll playdough balls to go on the tree and ten frame.
Your child might also like using these mini cookie cutters to make different shapes. They could add stars, hearts, ducks, bears, or more to their mat!
Now that you have your supplies, let’s talk about how to introduce the play dough number mats.
I would recommend doing just one number mat per day or even per week, depending on the age of your child.
There is no reason to rush, so make sure your child is really retaining information before moving on.
Point out the number one on the first mat and tell them what it is called.
Then tell your student that there has to be one apple in the apple tree. Have the child roll a peice of red play dough and place it on the tree.
Then have the child roll a piece of play dough into a “rope.” Show them how to use that rope to make a playdough number one on the mat.
Lastly, have them make a counter of any color to go on the ten frame.
You can also ask older children to add anything else they want to the mat. Do they want to add one sun, one flower, or one bird?
Let them get creative!
While they are working away, point out the number word to the right of the number.
Repeat this process with each new number and allow your child to enjoy the hands-on learning!
Of course, there really is no wrong way to use these mats.
So feel free to use them in whatever way helps your child have fun and learn.
Not every tree has to be an apple tree.
Do a little research with your child and find out what other fruits grow on trees.
You could make an orange tree from Florida, a pear tree from California, or a peach tree from Georgia!
If your child shows interest, really have fun with this. You could dive into a little botany, US geography, and who knows what else as you count through these fruit trees.
I hope you really enjoy the free downloads of these fun playdough mats – I know your kids will!
Play dough activities really are the perfect way to get kids learning, thinking, and exploring – without even realizing it!
I know they will be a great addition to your home learning, math centers, or curriculum.
If you still want more, I also started including alphabet play dough mats in my letter of the week printables.
They are free, instant download, phonics-based, and a great resource to have on hand as you teach your child!